As the world watches history unfold Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Israel’s Prime Minister special elections, BYU professors and students will watch closely to see what the outcome will bring.
For the first time, since the creation of Israel in 1948, Prime Minister elections will be conducted independent of Israeli government Knesset elections.
“What is happening in Israel is very unusual,” said Victor Ludlow, BYU Near Eastern and religious studies professor. “There is not a Knesset election going on, it is just voting for the Prime Minister — they have never had that happen before.”
In relation to the government systems Ludlow said, “We’re used to three equal chambers of government.” The difference, Ludlow said, is “in Israel you have one strong body — the Knesset — 120 members elected by proportional representation.”
Ultimately, this system tends to favor small minority parties.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak of the Labor Party is trailing in voting poles by 18 to 20 percent against Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon, according to the Haaretz Daily.
In reference to Sharon, Ludlow said, “He is a power maniac as far as I can tell.”
Discussing the candidates, Ludlow went on to say, “I think for him (Barak), it is not so much an ego trip … if you are a real leader, you stick it out.”
If Sharon wins on the 6th, “a whole new set of circumstances that they have never had to face” will be addressed, Ludlow said.
Depending on the Prime Minister’s ability to “warm the government,” Ludlow said the situation could be compatible to “a Republican president with a Democratic house and Senate.”
As for furthering the peace process, it is “not too optimistic,” Ludlow said, assuming Sharon wins, “and unfortunately world history shows that when two people have very, very strong nationalistic attitudes you have war-or at least are a long long way from peace.”
But peace is possible, even under a nationalist government. After the Yum Kippur war of 1973, Prime Minister Menaachen Begin, known to Palestinians as a “Jewish terrorist,” signed a peace treaty with Egypt that has since “become the prototype for current peace negotiations,” Ludlow said.
“I get asked if I think this [situation] is prophetic fulfillment,” Ludlow said, recalling events to lead up to Armageddon, “I don’t think so, but it may have to potential to be.”
Faisal Al-Rfouh, associate visiting professor from Jordan University, agrees with Ludlow that although the present situation is volatile proclaimed war is not probable.
“For the time being, no declared war-they (the Palestinians) are too weak,” Faisal said.
The current election presents a voting dilemma for Palestinians. Faisal explains: “both candidates support Jewish superiority, oppress Palestinian rights, and fail to recognize the Security Council’s resolution.” Faisal’s conclusion: “both are the same-one coin with two faces.”
In the mean time, “we will wait,” Faisal said.
United States involvement will be crucial. “She is the ‘Godfather’ of the world,” he said.
Yet, peace is the goal, for by it “everybody wins — but during war, everyone loses,” Faisal said.
Rami Nazzal, a BYU student from Ramallah explained “with Sharon coming into power, the Palestinians in Palestine will be living in hell.”
Already pamphlets have been distributed by the FATAH in Hebron, Gaza and other Palestinian cities expressing strong opposition to the prospect of Sharon’s leadership, Rami said.
Graffiti encouraging demonstrations and the need to “stand as a whole and together fight against Israeli occupation” are already in high circulation, Rami said.